Self-Efficacy and Computer Use

Understanding the factors that influence an individual’s use of technology should be goal of human resource professionals. Computer self-efficacy has been found to influence individuals in using computers. Individuals with high self-efficacy have been found to be highly correlated with the use of computers.

There is also a strong relationship between successful interactions with technology and influences on self-efficacy (Compeau, Higgins, and Huff, 1999). For example, at the TSA test center, a candidate who was taking the three part test stated she had never used a computer before in her life. This is an example of an individual exhibiting low self-efficacy with computers. After completion of the test, she mention that she using the computer was so intriguing to her that she was going to ask her husband to buy her one. Her interaction with the technology influenced her desire to want to use the technology in the future.

Compeau, Higgins, and Huff (1999) demonstrate that there are a total of five variables that influence computer usage, they include: computer self-efficacy, performance outcome expectations, personal outcome expectations, affect, and anxiety. Self-efficacy is defined as the belief an individual has in doing a specific task. Performance outcome expectations are those associated with improving job performance. Personal outcome expectations are the expectations of change in image or status or to expectations in rewards. Affect is the enjoyment a person derives in using computers. Anxiety is the feelings of apprehension about using a computer. In their study, they found a strong relationship between anxiety and self-efficacy and computer usage, as well as a strong relationship between affect and self-efficacy and computer usage. They found a negative relationship between personal outcome expectations and computer usage.

Bandura (2001) defines self-efficacy as the belief that one has the capability to perform a particular behavior. It has been an important concept in social psychology. Thus, computer self-efficacy is the judgment of one’s capability to use a computer. Compeau and Higgins (1995), state that the concern should be about what an individual can contribute in the future, not what one has done in the past. They also state that the concept of self-efficacy should allow individuals incorporate the ability to apply their skills to broader tasks.

What is this concept of computer self-efficacy?

Compeau and Higgins argue that self-efficacy has three dimensions: magnitude, strength, and generalizability.

The magnitude of self-efficacy refers to the level of task difficulty one believes is attainable. It reflects the level of capability expected. It would appear that Individuals with a high magnitude of self-efficacy typically have higher levels of cognitive development. These individuals are able to take on more complex tasks and complete them with relative ease overcoming any obstacles that get in their way.

The strength of self-efficacy refers to the confidence an individual has regarding his or her ability to perform a particular task. It refers to the behaviors needed to accomplish the task at hand.

The generalizability of self-efficacy refers to the degree the individual is limited to a particular domain of activity. Whereas the magnitude and strength dimensions focus on a smaller scale task, the generalizability dimension focus on larger tasks such as configuring computer networks. This is the most complex of the three dimensions developed by Compeau and Higgins, and even stressed the need for further research in this area.

The individuals who are high on all three dimensions resemble the self-directed learner. They have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to sense a problem or situation that is needed to be improved, finding the resources to solve this problem, and develop a solution. The role of the Human Resources professional should be to develop employees to get to this level. However, there seems to be a disconnect between treating employees as assets to be valued and treating them as expenses to be written off. This disconnect needs to be eliminated in order for true learning in organizations to occur. In order for that to occur there needs to be a culture shift in the organization.

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